What is cholera infection? Experts describe cholera as an infection of the
intestines which happens when an individual
accidentally swallows the bacterium Vibrio
cholera, which is usually present in water or
food that has been contaminated by faeces.
Physicians say cholera thrives in dirty
environment and in places where clean water
is lacking. Do you know Whats so dangerous about it?
cholera infection can become epidemic in places where
there are no proper waste disposal system.
Massive displacement of people, which may
force the displaced people to live in crowded
spaces, can also lead to cholera outbreak if
proper hygiene practices are neglected.
The World Health Organisation notes that
where the provision of potable water and
sanitation is challenging, the risk factor will
General Physician, Dr. Chris Olusanya, says
the most severe form of cholera is
characterised by a sudden onset of acute
watery diarrhoea that can lead to death
because of the severe dehydration that usually
follows frequent bathroom visits.
Although cholera is as preventable as it is
easy to treat, it can cause watery diarrhoea
and vomiting, making people who have it to
become dehydrated very quickly.
In severe cases of dehydration, it can result in
serious health problems if it is not treated
with the urgency it deserves, Olusanya warns.
He says it can result in seizures and kidney
failure. In worst case scenario, the physician
says, an infected person who doesn’t get the
much needed medical attention may die.
The incubation period of the cholera bacterium
is very short, as it can become active within
two hours of infection; while in some cases,
the incubation period could be about five
Olusanya says this short incubation period
“enhances the potentially explosive pattern of
outbreaks, and the number of cases can rise
The WHO notes that about three out of four
people infected with cholera do not develop
any symptoms, though the pathogens may
stay in their faeces for between seven and 14
days, during which they will contaminate the
environment when they poop indiscriminately,
which may lead to infecting other individuals.
Cholera is extremely severe and harmful in its
effects. It is no respecter of age or sex, as it
affects children and adults, men and women.
Indeed, paediatricians warn that cholera is
most common in children under the age of five
years, killing them fast where there’s no care.
And, unlike other diarrhoeal diseases, cholera
can kill healthy adults within hours. And when
it afflicts individuals with lower or
compromised immunity, such as malnourished
children or people living with HIV, they are at
greater risk of death if medical care is not
sought and received immediately.
Globally, WHO says, cholera kills between
28,000 and 142,000 people every year. And
that tells you that cholera is not the kind of
infection anyone can treat at home!
what you should know about cholera infection
People contact cholera through various ways,
Olusanya says. According to him, those who
get their water from the public water supply
must be careful, because if they drink water
that comes through burst pipes, it may have
become infected long before it gets to their
The same caution is necessary if you buy ice
block from retailers for use at home. Olusanya
warns that ice block that is made with
‘suspicious’ water may contain cholera
bacterium, which will definitely infect anyone
who takes it.
And if you are the type that buys foods and
drinks indiscriminately from street vendors,
you may as well be exposing yourself and
anyone around you to the possibility of
And though we have heard that vegetables
and fruits are good for us, we must be careful
of the way we handle our fruits and
Nutritionists say vegetables that are grown
with water that has been contaminated with
faeces pose serious danger to the consumer.
But since you may not know the source of
your vegetables, you are advised to handle
If you must eat raw vegetables such as
cabbage, lettuce, carrots, etc., Olusanya says
you should soak them for about five minutes
in vinegar-water solution. You should do the
same for fruits, he counsels.
Mercifully, Sushi is not entirely popular in this
part of the world. But even then, handle your
seafood with care! This is because raw or
undercooked fish and seafood that may have
been caught in waters polluted with sewage
pose serious threat of cholera to anyone who
Know the symptoms
The following are the unmistakable symptoms
to watch out for:
Watery diarrhoea with a fishy smell
Dry mouth and skin
Rapid heart rate
Loss of skin elasticity (the ability to return
to original position quickly if pinched)
Low urine output
Leg cramps and muscle cramps
Nausea and vomiting
Low blood pressure
Exhaustion and weakness
Irritability and restlessness
Dry mucous membranes, including the
inside of the mouth, throat, nose, and